Congregational Church Anniversary

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By Carolyn N. White

roslyn@antonmediagroup.com

The Congregational Church of Manhasset (United Church of Christ), with a history that dates back to its organization in the fall of 1939, has accomplished great things in the community and in the world, touching the lives of thousands with the Christian message and in countless other ways. On Sunday, April 10, the church, which has numerous members from the Roslyn area, will observe its 75th Anniversary with a celebratory 10 a.m. Worship Service followed by a Jubilee Brunch at the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club in Port Washington.

The first afternoon Family Service was held in October 1939 at the Munsey Park Center. Toward the end of January of 1940, activities were moved to the Onderdonk Mansion, often referred to as “The White House,” on Northern Boulevard, where the first morning service was held. The church’s charter was granted on April 27, 1940, and Albert Buchanan, a student at Union Theological Seminary, served as minister from January through September 1940. Visiting ministers occupied the pulpit until Rev. Stephen Ayres (1941–1942) was called as the first full-time minister. The church was incorporated on April 17, 1941, under the laws of the State of New York as The Congregational Church of Manhasset.

In February of 1943, the church rented new, larger quarters in a building that had formerly housed the Munsey Park Golf Club. Retired minister Rev. Dr. J. Stanley Durkee served as interim minister until a successor to Rev. Ayres was found. A call was extended to and accepted by Rev. George Gerald Parker, who began his 27-year pastorate at the church on March 7, 1943, when he delivered his first sermon. Since there was such a dramatic increase in church attendance within the first year after moving to the Munsey Park Golf Club and of Rev. Parker’s tenure, it became evident that this facility was no longer suitable and that larger quarters were necessary.

In the short space of seven years, the church had outgrown two buildings. Therefore, in April 1947, the Church membership voted to build a new, permanent facility. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the present building were held on May 9, 1948, on the three-and-a-half-acre site that had been purchased, and paid for, in May of 1942, with the expectation that a future church building would be constructed there. The cornerstone was laid on October 24, 1948, and the dedication of the building followed on June 12, 1949. Separate wings for the educational, social and administrative functions extending out from the central unit (sanctuary, balcony and chancel) were constructed later, as was the spire.

As growth in church membership continued over the years, the formation of different groups affiliated with the church proceeded at a steady pace. A day nursery school was established in 1958, and has grown to the extent that today it is one of the major community connections with the church. Also, in response to the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, the church, in cooperation with the Manhasset Public Schools, initiated Adventures in Learning in 1969 under the leadership of church member Maggie Grundman (who served as director for over 30 years). Housed in the Manhasset/Great Neck EOC building on High St., this after-school tutorial and enrichment program was dedicated to reinforcing the learning skills of first and second graders. With the assistance of many volunteers and current Executive Director Diana Holden, this vital program has expanded to include children in kindergarten through the sixth grade. For more information, visit www.adventures-in-learning.org.

Since the retirement of Rev. Dr. George Gerald Parker in 1970, The Congregational Church of Manhasset has been blessed with several outstanding senior ministers who exerted a profound influence on the church’s history, including Rev. Raymond A. Fenner (1970–1975),
Rev. Charles P. Calcagni (1976–1987), Rev. Maurice A. Fetty (1988–2001)
and Rev. James Only (2001–present).

Throughout the years, in addition to the senior ministers, the church has been fortunate to have had associate and assistant ministers, including Rev. James Only (1994–2001), who faithfully served, and continue to serve, the church and community. Currently, our associate minister,
Rev. Lori Burgess, and supply minister, Rev. Maureen Kessler, along with Rev. James Only, carry on the good work of the church’s founders, and continue to support the local, national and worldwide mission and outreach endeavors for which The Congregational Church of Manhasset is traditionally known.

For more information, contact the Church at 516-627-4911 or by visiting www.uccmanhasset.org. The Congregational Church of Manhasset (UCC) is located at 1845 Northern Blvd. in Manhasset (across the street from the Apple Store).

 

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Joe Scotchie is the editor of both The Roslyn News and New Hyde Park Illustrated News. In 2009, he won a New York State Press Association award for a sports feature. Joseph Scotchie’s past publications include biographies of Thomas Wolfe and Richard Weaver and a comprehensive history of the city of Asheville, North Carolina.

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